Google Maps for mobile previewed today at the I/O conference brings new features like integrated lists from Zagat, more reviews in more places and a revamped directions and navigations experience (which now includes real-time incidence alerts and dynamic rerouting).
Google says today's the biggest change it has ever made to Google Maps since it was launched eight years ago. And, it helps you find places you never would have thought to search for.
The new Google Maps is full-screen and fully interactive, and it instantly changes to highlight information that matters the most to you with just a click.
Google notes, that the new Maps is "carefully" designed to work seamlessly with all existing sites, and as such all third party customizations such as custom markers, overlays, map types, and the like will continue to function as they did before.
It involves four major changes: "new base map tiles; new default marker; new info window style; and style refresh of the controls."
"When you set your Home and Work locations, star favorite places, write reviews and share with friends, Google Maps will build even more useful maps with recommendations for places you might enjoy," explains Google.
Users can now rate restaurants and other local businesses directly from maps, using a new 5-star ratings scale instead of the usual 30-point Zagat scale.
Also new in this version is an integrated Google Offers experience, which will make it easier to find free offers from Google's daily deals service.
In addition to a customized map, Google also made it easier to uncover the best local gems. "Search results are now labeled directly on the map with brief place descriptions and icons that highlight business categories and other useful information."
Info cards provide helpful information such as business hours, and ratings and reviews so you can quickly decide where to eat, drink and play.
And, the new carousel gathers all Google Maps imagery in one spot enabling you to fly through cities, walk canyon trails, climb mountains, and even swim the oceans.
When viewed on a WebGL-enabled browser, like Google Chrome, "the carousel also lets you find the Earth view which directly integrates the beautiful 3D experience from Google Earth into the new maps," Google adds.
In addition, there's much more to discover, including "smarter directions and tours generated from user-submitted photos."
The new mapping experience for mobile devices launches later this summer.
Here is a quick tour of new Maps:
Updat 05/16: Google revealed that from the early mashups to today's on-location mobile apps, Maps API developers have created more than one million active sites and apps, which now reach "one billion unique visitors every week."
Also, the refreshed "Static Maps API" base maps and markers can mow be enabled by adding
&visual_refresh=true as a URL parameter."
"This new look will become default in the experimental branch (used by most standard Maps API developers) with the next scheduled release on August 15, 2013, and default in the release branch (used by most Maps for Business customers) three months later in November," Google stated.
The Static Maps API will follow the same schedule in both cases.
A complete list of specific changes is available in the documentation, with examples and in more detail.
Also, in line with the launch of the new Google Maps, Google is making it easier than ever to choose the right places to eat, drink, shop and play.
Users can now rate businesses on a scale that ranges from one to five stars. Business owner, will now notice that past ratings have been mapped to the five star system.
"The system maintains the precision of the former 30 point scale while improving the readability and accessibility of the business listings. Your customers will be able to find up-to-date, accurate information on your business faster than ever," explains Google.
These updates will continue to roll out on Google Maps, Google Maps for Mobile, Google search results and Google+ Local in upcoming months.
Zagat reviews are still available throughout Google, and "you'll continue to see Zagat throughout Google products with editorial reviews and curated lists awarded to notable places." Google adds.